World of Darkness, a tabletop rpg that Brett ran for 15 years. He talks about the setting, the mechanics and why it appeals to some gamers.
I’ve wanted to play WoD for twenty years - especially Changeling the Lost. I hope Brett has played CtL because I’d love to hear about it.
in reference to Sean’s question about What is the appeal.
Well there’s a few things -
1-Artwork and Layout. The covers and color art in the books are great, like instantly-inspire-a-character-or-scene-idea great. The layout and general book production is always good.
2-Modern game, so the party can split up, or be apart most of the time, since they can easily drive to see each other or call on the mobile phone. There is also the internet for research. You can use real places, tv shows, sporting events and music as flavor for your games.
3-Clan/Tribe/Order was not for Attribute bonus, it was for your outlook, how you see the world and interact with others. Your social groups goals and rivals. There would be suggestions for skills and talents, but it was up to you. It did feel like your characters had friends and family, or friends and workmates, rather than “the party” and questgivers.
Clan/Tribe/Order also was a signal to the GM for the sort of game the pcs want, and there was no insistence that you must have X Y & Z to make a balanced party, You take whatever combination you want within that game, and play.
4-Extra Bits! Folks say D&D is the elephant in the room, but there are some Hippos out there too. What I mean is Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, World of Darkness - all had novels, card games and computer games, for 20+ years. These help players envision the setting, get into the characters headspace, inspire scene/character ideas, and deliver a wealth of visual and audio details.
5-Characters have either Vice & Virtue, or Nature & Demeanor. When you are roleplaying them you get Willpower back. In both cases they help define what your character is like with solid parameters. This was interesting to many who found D&D alignment too abstract, while other systems had nothing at all on their character sheets about outlook and personality.
6-Basic system was simple, only using D10s, Attributes are 1-5, Skills are 1-5. No matter why you are rolling, grab some D10’s.
7-Because each game you were against the world at large, your social rivals and your own personal horrors, you had to balance what you put effort into and when, thus it was more tactical and strategic. The obligation to think about what you are doing and cover your butt was built into the setting, rather than an option based on GM preference.
I recall someone at a game store telling their friends WoD is for Adults, other people play that kid’s game! but meh, you can argue about RPGs being productive/adult (capitalism vs hobby) or maturity vs catharsis escapism.
There were also debates about WoD is more about story, but I can tell you there were plenty of WoD gamers who insisted on exact build formulas to min-max the hell out of the system to have an OP character. If I recall correctly that was one of the main arguments for the WoD reboot, that all the splatbooks in the original made it bloated (like D&D 3.5 got).
Up until a few years ago, I had never played a World of Darkness game. Technically, right after I played it, they changed the line from New World of Darkness to Chronicles of Darkness, so I guess, technically, I’m back to never having played a World of Darkness game?
Anyway, my first exposure to World of Darkness was my first convention, in the early 90s, where I heard a bunch of people basically saying that World of Darkness was for mature players, and that it was too nuanced for D&D fans, which immediately turned me off, as a D&D fan, so I bounced right off of it. That local anecdote colored my perspective for a long time.
I briefly left gaming for a few years, and when I returned in the early 2000s, the FLGS had a monthly game where multiple Storytellers would run different WoD games, and occasionally cross the games over, in a semi-larp. I was kind of interested in this, but SO MUCH of the discussion around the game was how you HAD to run the game the right way to do it justice, and you had to be super invested to understand how to play your character “right,” so again, I bounced off the game.
A few years ago, one of my friends was running a Werewolf: The Forsaken game. Hunter and Werewolf always appealed to me more than Vampire or Mage. Vampire felt kind of exhausting looking at it from the outside, because it felt like it was a lot of political maneuvering, and Mage felt very philosophically dense.
I had fun in the Werewolf game, but we had a few players that were leftover from the massive monthly Sunday game, and they were really locked in to what they felt was the “right” way to play things, and I always felt like I was doing it wrong when they would get into these discussions.
To some extent, the “you have to do it the exact right way to do it justice” mindset is something I’ve seen when some people talk about PBTA games these days, and it’s just such an intimidation factor to new people attempting to play a new game.
I did manage to get into PBTA games, but I continually wish that people wouldn’t get so invested in knowing the secret sauce to make a game work “the one true way,” instead of sharing their insights so that more people can experience what they love about a particular game.
For example, what Brett did in this podcast.
I only had a passing connection with that game. The person who ran it was… terrible. I bailed out of the game.
Thanks man! Those experiences you had really sucked - actually kinda hurt me to read them. Wish you’d have been around my table back in the early days. I think you’d have had a lot of fun.
I think most people have a favorite game, or at least grew up with one. One of my long time great friends, and frequent players, LOVES WoD. He’s always chomping at the bit to play or run it. So, I’ve tried it a few times. And I’ve never liked it. Maybe it’s the way he runs it. Probably it’s just me. But I don’t WANT to play a game of deep rooted politics, backstabbing, and social warfare. I already have to deal with that drama at work. Combat, in my experience, was “celerity wins”. End of combat.
NOW, I’m sure everyone can dog pile on why I’m wrong, and I’m sure I am. And I’m not above giving it another shot, but maybe with a different GM. But in my experience thus far, Vampire is the game of “of glad that game is there for the people that like it.”
I like the idea of World of Darkness Renaissance. I would love to see a burgeoning scene of WoD classicists, so we can advance to WoD gatekeepers and fun haters. I kid. But WoDR did remind me of something…
Anyway, lastly, I’m a little confused why Brett has a tattoo of a 90’s WWF wrestler on his shoulder. Big fan of the Brood? (Gangrel was a WWF wrestler in a group called the Brood, who’s schtick was they were all vampires: Gangrel, Christian, and Edge. That little experiment, if I recall, ended with a C&D from White Wolf and I only really recall Edge ever emerging from that.)
I knew there was some hiccups with Gangrel and White Wolf, so I looked it up, and of course, it was weirder than I thought it would be.
David Heath was a wrestler that decided it would be cool to do a vampire wrestler gimmick because he liked The Lost Boys. He used it as his thing when he was an independent wrestler and in ECW. He never used the name Gangrel at this time.
He got picked up by the WWE, and Vince hated the idea of a vampire wrestler, but Vince Russo convinced Vince to run with it, and he worked up a whole new entrance and name, i.e. Gangrel.
Turns out, Russo didn’t think White Wolf would notice WWE using the name, and they were wrong, because this was the height of White Wolf power, around the time when they had a full-blown television show. They worked out a deal with WWE, where they could license the name Gangrel from them, and they signed a five-year deal.
I vaguely remember a tiny little trademark notice on the Gangrel WWE action figures mentioning White Wolf.
At the end of the five years, Gangrel wasn’t really a headliner, so WWE released him from his contract and didn’t renew the license for the name. Fast forward a few years . . . WWE decided to bring back old members of the Undertaker’s Ministry as a group trying to get revenge on the Deadman.
Except . . . when WWE tried to contact White Wolf to renew the license for the name, they found out that White Wolf’s IP was owned by CCP Games. CCP games suddenly realized that there was a wrestler named Gangrel, and tried to sue WWE for EVER using the name, and a judge said that they couldn’t sue WWE for using the name in the past, when they had an agreement with White Wolf.
To be extra safe, WWE will not currently refer to the character as Gangrel. They didn’t pull any of the matches from their streaming service that include him being called Gangrel, but whenever they refer to him in current merchandise, they always use his actual name of David Heath.
Edge and Christian were one of the premier tag teams after The Brood split up, never to mention their former vampirism ever again. Eventually Christian left WWE to go to various other promotions, Edge got a HUGE push, then injured his neck and had to have a spinal fusion surgery (hm . . . I’ve heard of that before).
Like most modern wrestlers, despite being told if he injures his neck again that he could be paralyzed, Edge has come out of retirement because wrestling is a terrible industry to retire from if you didn’t become a movie star, and Christian just made his return a AEW wrestling, which, maybe, sort of, could be starting to be a rival to WWE dominance of wrestling since WCW was purchased and buried by Vince.
Nicely researched. FAR better than my feeble old mind.
Sidebar: Edge is also a big hockey fan and has a large collection of game used gear (sticks, goalie helmet, etc).
In other pro wrestling news. There used to be a rumor that Sting trademarked the name, and Sting (musician) pays him a dollar a year to use it. (fun story, but myth busted.)
Ah the Brood. And the New Brood. Still a really cool entrance.
As for the Gangrel story, I didn’t know CCP sued WWE. I do remember the topic of WWE’s Grangrel came up once and the community manager told us (the mods) to squash the topic if it ever did. Not to be discussed on the CCP/White Wolf forums. I didn’t know why at the time and I didn’t really care to look it up, but that makes complete sense.
So apparently I was called out on the Mooks ep on this, as for at least five years, I did a weekly pro wrestling podcast. Nice work encapsulating the Gangrel story, @JaredR !